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ICRISAT bags top international grant for agri-research

Posted on Jan 21, 07:32PM | UNI

Hyderabad-based International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) has once again got global recognition in its efforts at improving food security and furthering agricultural sustainability.

The ICRISAT has received the prestigious Agricultural Greater Good Initiative award at the 21st International Plant and Animal Genome Conference held on January 15, 2013 at San Diego(USA), announced by the Illumina, Inc.

The only other body to bag the grant was the Biosciences Eastern and Central Africa - International Livestock Research Institute Hub (BecA-ILRI Hub), for the pioneering applications of Illumina technologies to increase crop yields and reduce poverty and hunger.

Illumina's Agricultural Greater Good Initiative, launched in 2011, helps to spur critically needed research that will increase the sustainability, productivity and nutritional density of agriculturally important crop and livestock species. Grant recipients receive donations of Illumina reagents to support their projects.

ICRISAT, a member of the CGIAR Consortium, will use the grant to expand its efforts to improve the productivity of pigeonpea, a staple crop used for food, feed and fuel production in Africa and India.

On the other hand, the BecA-ILRI Hub will use the grant to expand its study of genetic resistance to cassava brown streak disease and cassava mosaic disease, both of which have infected large percentages of crops across East Africa where cassava is a major source of nutrition.

''There is nothing more foundationally important to health than food, and Illumina is excited to be involved with organisations working at the forefront of food security,'' says Jay Flatley, President and CEO of Illumina.

''Collaboration will enable the power of genomics to impact more people and on a global scale.'' ''We are very excited to be a part of Illumina's Agricultural Greater Good Initiative,'' says ICRISAT Director General William Dar. '' This grant will supplement our USAID-sponsored efforts on pigeonpea improvement through molecular breeding.'' The ICRISAT is working in collaboration with national partners such as the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and State Agricultural Universities, besides African partner institutes, to help ensure food security and income generation in developing countries.

''Collaborations like these between Illumina and the BecA-ILRI Hub are very welcome as they are key contributors towards strengthening agricultural research and capacity development in Africa,'' says Dr. Appolinaire Djikeng, interim Director of the BecA-ILRI Hub.

''If we are to bring Africa out from the shadow of poverty and food insecurity, then African scientists must have the tools to conduct research at the same level as other scientists around the world,'' he adds.

In 2012, Illumina broadened the scope of the Agricultural Greater Good Initiative through engagement with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Dow AgroSciences, as well as with the Feed the Future Initiative of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

''We're excited about the opportunity to connect advances in sequencing technologies with the needs of millions of families farming small plots of land in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia,''says Katherine Kahn, Senior Program Officer at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

''Increasing the productivity and resilience of staple crops including cassava and legumes is key to helping small farmers lift themselves out of poverty,'' she says.

''Through science, Dow AgroSciences is working to serve the needs of the growing world,'' said Gordon Slack, Dow AgroSciences Global Leader, Finance and Public Affairs.

''The need for novel solutions to address food insecurity in Africa and other locations is of paramount importance to Dow AgroSciences employees and the agriculture industry as a whole. We are honored to play a part in this vital work,'' he said.